Feb 05 2019

Erdoğan says Turkey should control Syria safe zone

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey should control a proposed safe zone in northern Syria, appearing to rule out a U.S. proposal that several allies should police the region.

Other countries should only provide logistical support, Erdoğan told members of his ruling party in a televised speech at parliament in Ankara on Tuesday.

Under Erdoğan, Turkey is seeking to strengthen its regional influence in the Middle East, Balkans and eastern Mediterranean free of traditional U.S. tutelage. The policy has created political tensions with its NATO allies as well as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“We are insistent about our request for a security zone,” Erdoğan said. “It must be under our control, other countries may only provide logistical support.”

U.S. President Donald Trump announced an immediate U.S. pull-out from Syria in December saying Islamic State (ISIS) had been defeated. Senior U.S. officials have since held talks with allies on policing an area of northern Syria along the Turkish border, offering logistics and intelligence, and helping to evacuate any casualties.

Erdoğan said no satisfactory agreement had been reached on how the zone would be run and Turkey’s military preparations were continuing. Talks with Trump had gone well, but the same could not be said for negotiations on a lower level, he said.

At the same time, Turkey is demanding that the United States drop its support for Kurdish militants in Syria who are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has battled for autonomy in southeast Turkey for more than three decades. U.S. troops are headquartered in Syria’s Manbij city, where the Kurds are also based in the joint fight against ISIS.

“Our patience isn’t unlimited – our wait will end unless the terrorists in Manbij are thrown out within a few weeks.”

Erdoğan said nothing would stop Turkey pursuing its aims, including being put on a sanctions list.